Things to Keep In Mind When Calling on Casino Customers

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As my life has morphed into that of an independent contractor, I’ve had a few former and not-so former vendors contact me for assistance in finding more success with casino operators. Interestingly, most of this success is less dependent on marketing tactics and much more dependent on understanding the nature of an operator’s day. In other words, Jules Rules #1: Know Your Audience.

After countless conversations with vendors discussing why (oh why?) their product isn’t cause to drop everything, I find I have discovered some common threads worth sharing.

Time

Think about everything a casino marketing director has on their plate. Typically, they are responsible for database marketing, the players club, host productivity, special events, promotions, entertainment and advertising. I once worked with a marketing director who was also in charge of valet! At the end of a long day (into night), one of the last things they probably want to do is return a cold call (or worse yet, get stuck on a 30-minute call because they absentmindedly answered the phone). Thirty minutes in your day may seem like nothing, but you could very possibly be the 12th person that day to ask for those 30 minutes.

Building customer personas are a good way of understanding your target audience (and a good way to discard those who are not viable targets). A well-developed persona can give you insight into they type of content your potential customer finds valuable and how they consume that information. In addition, personas will help you to identify the best channels for your messages to reach them. I love the folks at Hubspot because they may me smarter without asking me to buy anything from them. They have a great source for building buyer personas at http://offers.hubspot.com/free-template-creating-buyer-personas.

Expertise and insights

If you are truly selling something that can help, don’t be afraid to share your expertise and insight. If you really have a great product, chances are you’re not going to lose a customer because you shared a case study or whitepaper with the world. I’m a big…huge…fan of content marketing. I advocate it with almost everyone I work with. Competition is getting tougher and tougher every day, and any valuable information you can provide without the pressure of a sales call has more value to your target audience. Refer to your personas and you’ll start to identify the content that will prove valuable. Think about the goals that marketing director is trying to meet each day and the priority in which they need to be met. Use your knowledge to show them a path…to success and your product.

It should come as no surprise that a large majority of B2B buyers are acting like B2C buyers, research online, asking for recommendations and narrowing their list of possibilities on their own before they ever take or return calls from sales. Some have reported this number as high as 90%! In full disclosure, I not only advocate thought leadership, I develop this positioning for clients. Become a thought leader and share your information and knowledge generously. I said “generously” because some really smart people will only share their knowledge if you give them something in return, typically contact information they can use later. It’s acceptable to ask for the information especially if a quick search online would get them the same. I would advise that you not gate all of your knowledge and that you only ask for the basic information you need to follow-through. Also, remember you are the expert on your product or service not on their business. Respect them for what they bring to the table day in and day out. Take the time to get to understand them and their business so that you can be a better partner.

costs are costs

Yes, your product could very well possibly increase revenue, but for right now, we look at it as a cost rather than an investment. It’s just hard to overcome that mindset. History has told us that there are times when we have to trim costs…tighten our belts. History is what puts us in the cost vs. investment mindset. So, the best route is to be involved before and during the budget planning process. That way we can incorporate the costs and potential revenue growth. How do you become involved? Be the go-to expert.

Follow-through

Follow-through means asking about the knowledge you shared. Did it help? Can you provide more insights? It also means following up when you do get the elusive return call. A return call is reason for a small celebration, but not the big one. When a potential client asks for more. Follow up…as quickly as you were to make that initial call. Send them specifically what they requested. Don’t substitute it for what you think will sell your product faster and at a higher cost. That’s not what they are looking for. They told you what it was. When the time is right, you can add your own messages. This will be the stage where a potential customer subconsciously determines whether you will be a good partner, an ordinary vendor, or just a pain.

Most important of all: don’t assume you know more than the casino. You might, but it’s best to listen and understand first.

 

Things to Keep In Mind When Calling on Casino Customers

Quantifying Casino Advertising Spend

“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”

—John Wanamaker

This post originally appeared in the September 2014 issue of Casino Journal.

As advertisers you’ve likely seen this famous quote more times than you can count, and as such, it probably makes you cringe. It should, because like all marketing efforts, if you don’t know what you’re measuring, you can never defend the use of resources. Yet, as more and more channels of communication become digital and measurable, the pressure is on to determine how effective your advertising spend is.

Historically, we have relied on our media buyers to guide us in ratings, frequency, reach and GRPs. These are all great measurements of efficiency, but what good is an efficient buy if it’s not effective? In today’s challenging gaming markets, it’s more important than ever to use all your resources to positively impact your business goals: revenue, visits, new card sign-ups, etc.

If you asked your general manager to rank all of the marketing activities from best to worst, database marketing would probably be at the top and advertising at the bottom for no reason other than a profitability report (PR). Database marketing has historically been the beneficiary of great PR. Whether PR stands for public relations or profitability report, the result is the same. We can crank out profitability reports at the speed of a button push. If your general manager decided to cut advertising (and trust me when I tell you this happens more times than you would think), how would you defend it? Here are some steps you can take to make sure you’re never in this situation:

Use data to drive media buy.

No matter what size operator you are, no one can deny that the casino industry has a great deal of aptitude when it comes to database marketing. A customer puts their card into the slot machine, and we get an almost instant personalized view into their behavior. We know what they like to play, for how long and at what pace. All of this data gives us the ability to try a variety of means to get guests to stay a little longer and maybe even visit a couple of more times. With each passing mailer, we get smarter and smarter until we know exactly what we need to do to get someone in the door and how much we need to invest in that visit to remain profitable. Talk to any casino marketer and they’ll tell you something very similar to this.

And while database marketing and reinvestment accounts for the largest portion of our marketing budget, there is often still a portion allocated to the magic of advertising…and magic it is because up until now, we really couldn’t say that advertising was actually working for us. Deep down we knew it did, but there was no data to prove it.

In today’s age of “big data” there doesn’t seem to be a reason for casino marketers (or any marketers) to think that way again. It’s by using the skills we’ve developed in database marketing that we can further refine our knowledge of our customers and use media to tightly target the delivery of messages and content.

Know your audience.

Ever wondered if all of the stories of print coming to an end are true? Ask your customers. Is your budget limited to the point that you can only pick and choose broadcast programming? How do you know where to reach your customers? Ask them.

There are a number of easy to use do-it-yourself survey tools that can help you gather some insights quickly. Casino customers love to tell us any number of things. They will happily share their media habits. You can even segment your survey results dividing up the responses according to whether a guest is high- or low-worth, high- or low-frequency, practically anything you have as a segment. The survey itself can be as detailed as you want, but keep in mind good survey practices so you get as many complete responses as possible. Once you have this information, your media buys can be much more targeted and much more effective.

This graphic originally appeared in the September 2014 issue of Casino Journal.
This graphic originally appeared in the September 2014 issue of Casino Journal.

Look for pockets of opportunity.

Talking to existing customers is great and fine-tuning your media buy based on your insights is even better, but we know we can’t grow and succeed unless we continuously improve on past performance. New members, new revenue, additional visits are just some ways we can do that. This is another way to look to your database to drive some of your media dollars. If you have identified targeted growth segments or zip codes, your media buyer can help you determine where you might be able to find some quick success. Most media buyers will have access to Nielsen and Scarborough products that can further give you insights into zip codes, media usage and lifestyle.

If you use that data on top of your existing zip code data, you can determine test areas for growth. In addition, digital products such as Google Adwords and various online ad networks can narrowly target segments for messages.

Once you’ve identified these target areas you can easily see a before and after view via your canned database reports.

Make sure to set goals.

These goals can involve measurable results such as new members, visits, revenue or theo. That which doesn’t get measured does not get rewarded. Word of mouth and intent to visit are great outcomes from your advertising, but you can’t deposit that in the bank.

There are also social media apps that can integrate into your CRM to layer social media information on top of casino play and you’ll soon figure out how you can become more profitable with those retail offers.

Partnering with your media buyers and database marketers can make you a highly effective advertiser.

Quantifying Casino Advertising Spend

The Data Fact Gap

I’ve been working with a client for a few months now. They work in a field that is a little off my usual path: predictive analytics. It’s been a great experience as I’ve gotten the opportunity to strengthen my database marketing muscle. Like most muscles in your body, you never know how much they can bear if you don’t use them.

The following is a recent blog post for their website.

As professionals, we all know that technology has changed the way we do business. Whether you find the increased dependence on new technology as good or bad often depends on how effectively the tools are used. Over the years, this problem has been illustrated in many ways by Stics and a variety of other experts.

Fact Gap Graph


This particular Fact Gap illustration was first attributed to the Gartner Group. It will help us describe how data technologies are, on the one hand, progressing and on the other, creating new data analysis problems.

The “Data Fact Gap” was created by the explosion of available digital information accumulated in recent years. With technology system advances, increased data storage capacity and Internet usage it is now easy to collect mountains of data. While the volume of retained data has grown exponentially and spread across all industries, so have the data management challenges it created and the even greater marketing opportunities that mostly lie dormant.

This abundance of data creates new problems that force database marketers to devote a lot of time and resources to filtering information into data segments so decision makers can frame a concept, problem or question.  While this approach is intuitive to the human brain, it does limit our ability to make a fully informed decision from all available data.

Why You Need Good Data

Intuitively we often think we already know what our customers want. However, that is not always the case.  When we make business decisions by filtering our data down to a few variables we miss the more accurate and complete view of the data.  Without hard data, there’s no way to be sure truly objective decisions are being made. Worse, because we think we’re making objective decisions, we often don’t seek an outside perspective.

What we really need is an objective analysis, wielding as many customer factors and data points as possible. This approach helps us see the potential hidden below the common database marketing analysis.

Statistical Predictive Analytics Solves the Problem

One way to harness the data explosion and make better marketing and business decisions is to use predictive analytics. Predictive analytics uses the science of statistics and is capable of considering unlimited facets of a situation. Predictive analytics for marketing can increase a marketing campaign’s return on investment by 10 times compared to a typical SQL analysis that might only evaluate (about) five variables. It takes the data that you already have and gives you information you can use in your marketing campaigns, such as:

  • Identifying customers you are currently marketing to who are unprofitable or about to reach the end of their customer lifetime value
  • Identify high value customers hiding in your database or prospects you are not marketing to
  • Suggest more profitable marketing programs
  • Identify the lifetime value of various members in your customer base

Statistical modeling with predictive analytics is proven to help make more informed decisions and increase profit margins.

The Data Fact Gap

Casino Branding 101

This originally appeared in the May 2014 issue of Global Gaming Business. I’m reposting it here with a couple of new elements.

For years, I’ve been polishing old brands and creating some new brands. I have found that, no matter what the project, market or budget, the steps are the same. They are what one of my former agencies likes to call “The Jules Rules.” I like to refer to them as the five pillars of brand marketing.

Know Your Target/Market

Formal research unearths a great deal of insight. I always recommend it, but I also highly recommend spending time on the floor. When was the last time you worked your player’s club—answering questions about the latest promotion, redeeming offers, issuing comps based on the actual play in your CMS?

If you can’t recall, it’s time to hit the floor. Not only do you get to meet and learn more about your guests, you get to understand what your front-line employees have to face when trying to deliver on your brand promise. I’d also invite my advertising agency folks to meet some guests face to face. It’s amazing what everyone will learn and how that will affect the next steps.

Brands are Built from the Bottom Up

brand iceberg
Great brands are built from the bottom up. Source: StarGroup

I have used the old iceberg image as a longstanding example of what makes a good brand because it’s the best way to show your operations team how what they do is the most important part of the brand. All the things that happen below the surface are what makes your brand true (or not) to your guests and to your employees. The next time you embark on a brand project, look at all of those elements first before giving your agency or graphic artist directions on a name or logo. Download the PDF and put it up in your marketing department.

Operationalize Your Brand

When you can’t see a difference between what you say you do (marketing) and what you actually do (operations), that’s when you know you have a truly great brand.

First, you have to build the internal culture. Then, you have to make sure the tools you provide your employees to deliver on the brand are consistent with your vision. If you’re going to be the value leader in slots, you have to be the value leader throughout your property.

That doesn’t mean cheap. Value isn’t a price point (but that’s a discussion for another column). You can still offer a fine-dining experience. Just make sure that experience is better than anything your guests could have imagined. If you’re going to be the leader in service, guests can’t be waiting for what seems a lifetime for their cars to return from valet or to get to a guest services rep or cage cashier.

True Brand Programs Share DNA

Employees and customers reward brands that are true and consistent. It’s easy to be tempted by the trend, but if it doesn’t fit your brand, the guest experience will feel disjointed and your employees will not have the ability to deliver on the brand promise. The offerings you feature have to feel like they are coming from the same source. You’re not a shopping center offering every option. You have to be selective and only offer the things that make sense to your brand. To paraphrase Steve Jobs, sometimes what you say “no” to is as important as what you say “yes” to.

Make Your Brand Iconic

You would think that after working at one of the premier destinations in Las Vegas, my work for a smaller regional gaming company would have been less than thrilling. I’m here to tell you that is not true. The day the Isle of Capri Casinos management took the Lady Luck trademark out of the legal file cabinet and into the light was one of the most exciting days in my career. The Isle management team realized we couldn’t just ignore one of the most iconic brands in casino history. “The Lady” excited us and, more importantly, our customers.

Those are my five pillars, but to be truly successful, you also need to get help. Brand development is not a DIY project. It takes resources—brainstorming, creative, execution, and sometimes legal. This can be as cost-effective or expensive as you let it become. Don’t skimp because of costs, but do find the collaborators that absolutely love your business to help you. Nothing else should do.

Casino Branding 101

Should the Truth of Your Slot Hold Be a Great Ad or a Great Experience?

Recently I had the honor to sit on a panel discussion about the current state of casino advertising. I was amazed how well everyone’s messages linked together to a bigger topic even though we worked independently on our own advertising specialties.

As casino operators, we want gamblers who have the discretionary dollars available and who have a pre-set budget for themselves that is within their ability to spend. Repeatedly, customers tell us a source of satisfaction is how long they can play with their budget. They want to say “in play” for the allotted amount of time they have and within the allotted budget.

If you’ve been a longtime reader, you’ll recall my casino glossary for Agency Post. I defined “hold” as the amount the casino keeps as net gaming revenue. It is calculated by “Total in – amount paid out = hold.” Typically, this is referred to in percentages.

“Hold”. This is a notion we casino marketers have historically loved. Loosest Slots … More Winners … The Most Winners .. Best Slots … Best Payouts. But often these were merely advertising headlines without any relationship to the overall experience. I’m not calling anyone less than truthful. The fact is any of us have used one or more of these lines because there was some bank of slots somewhere on our casino floors that made these headlines true.

loose slots

Over the years, I’ve been part of way too many heated arguments about slot hold. In general, there are two camps. Camp A feels that customers can’t possibly tell when we raise hold because mathematically, it takes millions of spins to hit the target hold. Camp B (the one I’m in) agrees that a customer can’t calculate the hold (because of those million spins), but they can FEEL how fast their gambling budget takes them today versus how far it went yesterday.

To me, this (hold) experience is part of what the brand delivers which in turn should drive the message you communicate. This is why customers don’t believe the loose slots messages no matter how great your ad is. Nothing kills a bad experience like a great ad.

I’m sure the hold controversy will never be resolved if you think purely in terms of math. However, I think you can find a resolution if you think in terms of the guest experience you want to deliver. Put yourself in your guest’s shoes. Do you really want to take her $20, $50 or $100 in a matter of minutes or do you want her to have a great time and return with another $20, $50 or $100.

At the end of the day, if we’re in the business of entertainment, shouldn’t we entertain?

Should the Truth of Your Slot Hold Be a Great Ad or a Great Experience?

Friday Five — 6/14-13

It’s the end of another great week of great thinking from so many people. It’s always hard to narrow it down to five. Thank goodness, I’m a New Orleans girl and can throw in some lagniappe!

Location, location, location…I’m always amazed at the decline of Atlantic City. I really am, but I can see how easily customers opt for convenience than the trek to AC and how that’s become a “getaway” versus the place to get your gambling fill. Read more about the good news for regional operators!

Know your audience…Although I think I could fit into something at Abercrombie & Fitch, I was just never attracted to the brand. Obviously, I’m not their target…and I’m ok with that. While I do think Mike Jeffries could have rephrased his comment, I couldn’t help thinking, “So what? It’s obviously not their target. And that’s ok with me.” Companies have to understand who they are marketing to in order to design and deliver the right experiences. You can’t be everything to everyone. Brands are not required to market to everyone. Read more here.

Krispy Kreme DonutsMmmmm…There are days when there is nothing better than biting into a fresh hot donut. Just to hear the name Krispy Kreme brings back memories. I guess it’s a good thing they realized they needed to build memories rather than a brand…and yet, somehow, they did both. Here’s how they did it.

Magic…Customer service always seems like it’s part magic, but Erika Anderson makes you realize just how simple it is. Then, why do so many companies seem to ignore these three simple keys?customer satisfaction guarantee

…or empowerment…I guess I taken with Barbara Apple Sullivan’s tale because I’m always afraid I’ll lose my id in some way or another with each trip I take. I check and double-check and then check again that I have it in my possession. It’s probably bordering a little on OCD, but I think that’s the only evidence of such. My big takeaway from her article is that employees should be given permission to use their judgment. It’s the most important thing you can do if you’re trying to deliver excellent service. Of course, there are other things such as hiring and training, but allowing employees to use their good judgment implies to me that you’ve hired and trained properly. You can read her amazing story here. Given all the bad PR airlines are getting lately, this may come as a surprise.

music noteThis week’s lagniappe is about a lawsuit that has been filed to have the oh-so-popular commonly sung birthday song declared to be in the public domain. As a brand marketer, I’m often looking for usable names for new brands. Have you tried naming a restaurant lately? It’s quite a challenge to develop something usable, ownable and desirable. I’ll be watching this one closely as I can see both sides of this intellectual property argument. Read about it here and let me know what you think.

Friday Five — 6/14-13

Friday Five — 6/7/13

It’s been far too long since I’ve taken care of my blog and it’s time to fix that. I’m starting slowly with the return of my Friday Five. Here are the articles that inspired me the most this week. I hope they spark something in you as well.

human brand

The human brand. I often read about what brands should be doing online and in social, but this is the first I’ve seen about being just human. Making connections is a human-to-human exchange. If your brand isn’t human, how will you touch customers? Make sure you read this whole post from Pam Moore. There are some great links at the end.

To followup. I was cleaning out my email and (as I’m sure you do as well), I had a plethora of emails I marked “unread” so that I could go back and read them “when I have time”. Well, I have time now and I’m glad I saved this one. It’s from Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute on Coca-Cola’s Content 2020. It’s over 18 months old. I can’t believe how long I let this sit in my inbox.  Wow! I loved this one. It made me think of CPG in a whole new light. You really can’t think in terms of a :30 television spot anymore. Read and watch.

It’s like connective tissue. The notion of integrated marketing isn’t new, but it just seems you can’t say it enough. Marketing has to be a combination of all the channels and touch points in the customer’s experience. Brian Bennet of STIR Advertising does a great job of illustrating this in his MarketingProfs post.

loyaltyIs it really a loyalty program? Here’s a pet peeve I have…the notion that frequent visitor/buyer and player card programs are called “loyalty” programs as a matter of course when very few of them drive loyalty. It’s no wonder the programs have grown but participation has dropped. As the article states: “… it’s crucial for companies to strengthen loyalty programs through innovation and relevancy.” See if you agree with this post.

That being said, I love what MGM Resorts International  is doing with MLife. Experiences are the key for their most frequent guests and they’re making sure they are having them by collaborating with Southwest and Hyatt. I was recently at a luncheon where Scott Voeller, SVP of brand strategy and advertising for MGM Resorts International, spoke about the changes and developments for the program. I think they may be poised to become THE casino player card program because of the way they understand their guests and try to give them the experiences they’re looking for. You can read about the partnerships with Southwest at this Vegas Inc. post and the Hyatt partnership in this Howard Stutz post.

Yes, I realize there are six articles. Where I’m from, we call that “lagniappe”!

I’d love to know what articles inspired your marketing this week.

Friday Five — 6/7/13